Every week the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish prompt bloggers to compose a Top Ten list based on a weekly theme. This week’s theme is ‘Top Ten Favourite Classic Books’. Since I don’t think I’ve actually shared a list of my favourite books yet, I thought today would be as good a chance as any to share some of them with my lovely readers. :)
So here they are, just for you…
Top Ten Favourite Classics
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. If you’ve read my post about Pride and Prejudice, you’ll know that I feel quite protective of Austen as a writer. This novel is Austen at the height of her comic powers. There’s so much I could say about how utterly clever and witty and technically brilliant this book is, but in the end the only thing you can really do is just read it. Seriously. Read it.
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The downfall of the American Dream is illustrated in heartbreaking detail in Fitzgerald’s best-known novel. For me, one of my favourite things about this book is the imagery. Who could forget the Valley of Ashes, or the wedding-cake room at Daisy and Tom’s? Don’t judge this book by the recent (terrible) film adaptation. Fitzgerald’s novel is cleverer, more evocative, and much more powerful than the latest filmic version.
- Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. They call it the first science fiction novel. It was written by an eighteen-year-old girl on a trip to Italy. Yes, that’s right; Captain Kirk and Han Solo owe their existence, at least partly, to a young lady with a big skirt and a really, really spooky imagination. I’ve gone on and on about this book before, but Shelley’s interrogation of modern science and ethics remains as disturbingly and distressingly relevant today as it was when it was first published.
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre is more than just an impossible love story between a governess and her employer. Bronte uses her novel to challenge the treatment of women in Victorian society, highlighting the way they are often stifled, intellectually and emotionally, by a misogynistic and class-obsessed society.
- Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. Although written by a younger and less experienced Austen, Northanger Abbey is an incredibly enjoyable and funny book. Austen parodies the effect that reading sensationalist novels can have, particularly on the young and inexperienced (this was particularly relevant during the high years of Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey). Yet as much as she pokes fun at the conventions of popular Gothic novels, Austen defends novel-reading in general, suggesting that readers only need to learn to distinguish the difference between truth and fiction. Because a large number of Gothic novels were written by women during this period, Austen also defends her fellow female writers, turning the focus on the reader and how they choose to interpret what they read (hence the famous and ambiguous last line of the novel).
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. I guess I’m technically cheating by counting all three books, but it’s really hard to pick a favourite out of these three. Tolkien, an enthusiastic scholar of Anglo-Saxon, not only used elements of this language and culture to enrich the construction of Middle Earth, he also pioneered Anglo-Saxon studies, an area which had previously been largely neglected. Lord of the Rings is detailed, exciting, and incredibly enjoyable.
- Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. I know, it’s not Shakespeare’s most famous or well-known play, but Julius Caesar has always been a favourite of mine. Perhaps it’s because of my interest in the classical world, or perhaps it’s because this play is riddled with amazing language and beautiful soliloquies. My favourite speech (Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world / Like a Colossus”) is here, as well as the always-pleasing and oft-parodied “Friends, Romans, countrymen”.
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Heh heh. I did it again – I just can’t help myself. It’s so difficult to pick a favourite from this enjoyable series. Like many, I devoured Narnia for the adventure, the magic, and the memorable characters. And, like many, I felt myself to be bitterly betrayed when I learned that the whole thing was really just an allegory of the Christian experience, by the intensely religious Lewis. But setting aside the religious influences, Narnia remains an exciting adventure, and it’s easy to shut off that part of your brain that is picking up on all the religious imagery and just enjoy the adventure, and the magic, and the memorable characters.
- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s difficult to choose between this and Cranford as my favourite Gaskell novel. Cranford, however, is rather episodic, while North and South is a complete novel. Gaskell, like her contemporary Dickens, shows a great deal of concern for the poor of Victorian England. In this novel Gaskell examines the effects of the Industrial Revolution on individuals, constructing a very moving and socially conscious book.
- The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot. Although it’s not a novel, I can’t write a favourites list without including this poem. ‘The Waste Land’ is so unlike anything you have ever read; confusing, cluttered, but somehow both moving and disturbing. Written between the two World Wars, this poem captures the sense of dislocation, of shattering, of despair, which the loss of human life on such a scale inspired.
What are your favourite classics? :)
(You can find more Top Ten Tuesday here.)